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Funny Girl

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The Writing of Funny Girl

Commentary and writing tips by Noel Katz

Noel KatzThe most famous songs from Funny Girl, "People" and "Don't Rain On My Parade," are unusual in that they're stunningly successful, and yet they contain elements that are "wrong" in a strict definition of the term. Funny Girl, in fact, is a show in which the "bad" models work; so, one must emulate with caution.

It also had a troubled road to Broadway. Key people quit or were fired, and, after leaving the project, director Jerome Robbins came back to fix it. At that point, out of town, there was only one thing working "Barbra Streisand's performance "and the "fix" involved giving her more stage time. Indeed, the reason Funny Girl was a hit is that a genuine star was born, and audiences flocked to see her while they could. When your lead actress is filling the seats, the quality of the writing diminishes in importance.

Examined carefully, the lyrics to "People" don't make a whole lot of sense. It starts low and conversationally, "People" people who need people," and then soars: "are the luckiest people in the world." And it concludes with the same statement. But "need people" is not what the character means. She's saying that people who are in love are lucky, not the infirm who have to rely on round-the-clock nurses. While the lyrics are obtuse, Jule Styne's music is gorgeous, and allows the singer to let loose with those fabuloushigh notes.

"Don't Rain On My Parade" has music that is utterly contemporary (mid-1960s) and has a jazzy Latin beat, with chords that seem to be getting higher every time they're heard. It's a very exciting tune that's anachronistic in the extreme. However, much of the rest of the score ""Who Taught Her Everything?," "Cornet Man," "Rat-a-Tat-Tat" "is so perfectly representative of its period, the whole of Funny Girl doesn't play as too out of time.

Perhaps Styne, like Robbins, knew that Streisand was to be the chief asset of the show, and made writing specifically for her talents his primary consideration. The harmonies of the second act torch song, "The Music That Makes Me Dance," are very 1960s, but there's so much emotion in the situation, and Streisand's singing is so strong, the listener doesn't care about anything else. The flip side of this equation is the sad fact that Funny Girl doesn't get produced very often. The show and score is so associated with the original star, it's rare that the risk is taken to fill her shoes.

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DVD

Funny Girl (DVD) from Amazon.com 1968 film version featuring Barbara Streisand and Omar Sharif. Special features include: Production info, Filmographies, Song highlight, Bonus featurettes: "Barbra in Movieland" & "This Is Streisand".

Cast Recordings

Funny Girl Original Cast Funny Girl (1964 Original Broadway Cast) from Amazon.com Songs include: Overture, If A Girl Isn't Pretty, I'm The Greatest Star, Cornet Man, Who Taught Her Everything, His Love Makes Me Beautiful, I Want To Be Seen With You Tonight, Henry Street, People, You Are Woman, Don't Rain On My Parade, Sadie, Sadie, Find Yourself A Man, Rat-tat-tat-tat, Who Are You Now?, The Music That Makes Me Dance, and Don't Rain On My Parade (Reprise)

Funny Girl SoundtrackFunny Girl Film Soundtrack from Amazon.com Songs include: Overture, I'm The Greatest Star, If A Girl Isn't Pretty, Roller Skate Rag, I'd Rather Be Blue Over You (Than Happy With Somebody Else), His Love Makes Me Beautiful, People, You Are Woman, I Am Man, Don't Rain On My Parade, Sadie, Sadie, The Swan, Funny Girl, My Man, and Finale.

Sheet Music

Funny Girl Sheet Music from Musicnotes.com Seven of Jule Styne's greatest songs from the show that made Barbra Streisand a household name, including both the moving "People" and the celebratory "Don't Rain on My Parade." Instant digital download sheet music.

"Don't Rain on My Parade" from Musicnotes.com Instant digital download sheet music.

"People" from Musicnotes.com Instant digital download sheet music.

Funny Girl ScoreFunny Girl: (Vocal Score) (Score) from Amazon.com $46.16
Songs include: Funny Girl, If A Girl Isn't Pretty, I'm The Greatest Star, You Are Woman, I Am Man, Rat Tat Tat Tat, Downtown Rag (Styne/Merrill), Sadie, Sadie, His Love Makes Me Beautiful, The Music That Makes Me Dance, Henry Street (Styne/Merrill), Who Are You Now, Don't Rain On My Parade, Find Yourself A Man(Styne/Merril, Cornet Man (Styne/Merrill), I Want To Be Seen With You Tonight, Who Taught Her Everything? (Styne).

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